Frequently asked questions about the Common Core State Standards

August 2013

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A recent PDK/Gallup poll of the public’s attitude toward education initiatives found that nearly two-thirds of respondents were unfamiliar with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Among those who had heard of the Common Core Standards, approximately one-third of respondents indicated that they did not fully understand the initiative.

When it comes to the Common Core Standards, misinformation abounds. So today we’re rounding up the five most frequently asked questions we’ve heard about the Common Core Standards, and their answers.  Do you have a pressing question about the CCSS that you don’t see addressed here? Leave it in the comments below.

1. What is the Common Core State Standard Initiative?

The Common Core Standards are the culmination of a two-decade effort to set expectations for what students should know and be able to do. The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit bearing entry courses in two or four year college programs or to transition to the workforce.

The standards depict a logical progression of learning from grade to grade in English language arts and mathematics from grades K-12, and are designed to be coherent within grades so that teachers addressing one standard can support the learning on another standard.

2. North Carolina already has performance standards; how are the CCSS different?

The CCSS represent the first time that nearly every state has set common expectations for what students should know and be able to do. In the past, each state set its own standards, and the results varied widely. For example, the average gap between the percentage of students scoring at or above proficiency on North Carolina’s state assessment and NAEP reported fourth-grade reading scores (EOG: 65 percent, NAEP: 34 percent) was 31 percentage points in 2010-2011; the eighth-grade math gap was 42 percentage points (EOG: 79 percent, NAEP: 37 percent).

3. Who’s behind the CCSS?

The CCSS were developed by the National Governor’s Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers and a bipartisan organization led by governors, business leaders and more than 30 states. Since release of the standards in 2010, the initiative has received broad support from the business community, educators, colleges/universities and education reform advocates.

4.  What data are required to be collected in association with these standards?

None. There are no data collection requirements for states adopting the CCSS. The means of assessing students and the data that results from those assessments are up to the discretion of the state and are separate and unique from the CCSS.

5. What are the likely pain points of the CCSS?

The CCSS place higher demands on students than most previous state standards, which many students already had difficulty with. Analysts expect a predictable drop in scores from previous tests given these new, more rigorous standards. Older students who have spent much of their careers learning under a different set of standards, and English language learners who must adjust to higher literacy demands may require additional supports (instructional time, resource, etc.) to help them reach the new expectations.